With control of both houses of Congress and the Executive branches, top Republicans including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Tom Price, (just appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services) are saying trivial lawsuits are pushing malpractice insurance premiums over the limit and driving doctors out of business. Nonsense-- the costs of malpractice premiums has dropped since the early 2000's as has the rate of malpractice claims, by more than 50% according to the Washington Post.
These false claims are the prelude to a Republican effort to impose national legislation (contrary to the GOP 10th Amendment states rights arguments) restricting or eliminating the rights of patients to hold doctors and larger corporate hospital organizations accountable for sloppy practice. This will be the trade off Republican's will demand that we accept as part of their repeal of Obamacare.These reforms will enrich only the insurance companies and corporations whose lobbyists work with the GOP. Our friends and neighbor's who are the unfortunate victim's of medical negligence will be denied fair compensation. Remember, the permanently disabled will inevitably require social security disability, medicare or medicaid benefits all paid for by the average taxpayer -- unless they have been compensated for their lost wages and medical expenses by the medical and insurance industry. Who should bear that cost?
According to Kaiser Health News, Michael Matray, editor of Medical Liability Monitor, a trade publication stated: "It's a wonderful time for doctors looking for coverage and it's never been better for insurer's." Yet, Rep. Tom Price is proposing to impose on damaged patients's an increased burden of proof - JUST - for medical malpractice cases. Dr. Price wants to pass legislation requiring malpractice claimants to prove not just ordinary negligence, but gross negligence which is extremely difficult and would likely result in many doctors and hospitals totally avoiding responsibility for causing harm. Who is he looking out for?
The Senate defeated legislation to impose caps on damages in medical malpractice actions many years ago, but it may not be able to prevent passage of similar legislation during the next congressional term. If we are to take the GOP's proposed malpractice reforms seriously, we must expect that those reforms offer something to improve patient safety. It has been estimated that medical errors result in more than 250,000 deaths per year--the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Malpractice caps have been passed in more than a majority of States, and apparently hasn't helped improve physician's incomes--but these caps have deprived many malpractice victims of legal representation or severely wiped out a fair recovery. No other professional or trade group in America has sought to limit their accountability to the public as has been demanded by the large corporate hospital groups and insurance companies.